Australia wants zero carbon emissions and Scott Morrison is not listening

Contributed by Jim Hayes

Scott Morrison and his government are having serious trouble over the issue of global warming just weeks before the United Nations COP 26 summit in Glasgow. The Prime Minister remains steadfast in continuing evasion of a clear commitment to anything. There is growing hostility between the Coalition parties and the Liberal Party is factionalising over the issue.

A big part of the friction is between those closer to the Fossil fuel industry and those more distanced from it. Division is also coloured by the rising strength of public opinion. Surveys tell us that most Australians want action on climate change and believe that the Morrison government is doing far too little.

Politicians have an eye on their continuing careers and are nervous over how to deal with the matter. Some of them even believe that more action is needed.

The Australia Institute’s Climate of the Nation report, which has been tracking Australian attitudes to climate change since 2007, revealed today 69 per cent of people support a net zero target for cutting carbon emissions. Only 12 per cent support Morrison’s so-called gas-powered recovery. A big 75 percent are concerned. A massive 82 percent of Australians want coal fired power stations to be phased out.  Note that this is during the Pandemic, where one would expect attention to other issues would wane.

Growing concern and calls for real action are raising attention over the need for a shift form a fossil fuel dependent economy to a renewable one using alternative energy production.

Photo by Tim Swanton/ABC News

The paralysis that has hit the Morrison government is caused by the combination of  fear, division within its ranks, and how to sell a consensus that promises action while maintaining the minimalist approach. The fear is both short and longer term. Resignations from the parliament threaten a minority and less stable government and an insisting population might bring enough pressure to force through significant change.

International pressure on Australia is becoming more pronounced. Australia is falling further and further behind as the rest of the world, even if tentatively,  moves forward with more ambitious targets. This is inviting criticism. It may even damage international relations and trade.

COP 26 could prove an embarrassment for Morrison, and this is undoubtedly a major reason for his reluctance to go to Glasgow.

Achieving net zero requires a target date else enough to prevent a disaster. Setting vague dates and far into the future, is tantamount to not having a zero emissions policy. Australia must travel along way towards net zero by the end of this decade. Exports of coal and gas must be cut right back as part of  Australia’s contribution to global cooperation.

Developing sustainable energy sources must be matched by efforts to built  sustainable economy. It means converting all sectors of the economy to low and clean energy use. This is the bigger task.

The human dimension is important. Effective change means its acceptance, and this requires the participation of the whole of society in bringing it about. It can’t be left to the political and business elite. The Morrison government is the antithesis of this. There is no way it will countenance  a change in direction.

Climate warming may be a big enough threat to force change.

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